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How I View The Work Programme

Dread, it seems to pervade my life in dealing with this new order. Dreading appointments, dreading being given appointments, dreading travelling to appointments, dreading having to wait an hour in the cold for the next bus home after the appointment, dreading whether my benefit will be stopped, dreading whether i have to do this or that. This is what the DWP brings out in me and it's completely beyond their remit of help and assistance.

I don't feel I can deal with the Salvation Army any more, but I have to. 

The problem is that appointments with my adviser, all 2 of them, do not comprise a meeting of equals in an atmosphere of support and compassion. They consist of suspicion and expectation; they are punitive. It seems beyond them to ask "is this person suffering? does this person need proper help? what can we do?". Instead it's "you are making excuses, why?", it seeks to chastise. 

When I speak to my adviser I don't feel I can be honest and open. He has demonstrated that he isn't interested; when I told him what I was interested in it was thrown back in my face and I was told "that's a long term career goal - we need to focus on your short term career goals". These are terms used without definition but with the assumption their meaning is obvious. In fact short term goals is code for "we are only interested in what your JSAg says, and nothing you can say will change that".He demonstrated he wasn't capable by telling me that his organisation has no training or capability to deal with health matters, whatever they may be. I was told (not asked) that I should have a support worker present, but that's only because it protects him from being held liable by me for anything I might say. However they have to deal with people on ESA (like me, now) that thus have issues.

When speaking I feel that not only do I have to guard myself and watch what I say, lest it trigger some unforeseen bureaucratic consequence, for example saying what is on my JSAg and then finding that's all they are prepared to even consider. I have to anticipate what the adviser is thinking and I have to consider that, because he isn't acting in my best interests, he is working against me. Normally that would sound like rampant paranoia, but the Work Programme is not motivated by getting me into a better and self sufficient place in life with a good career (or whatever), it's about pursuing targets and making money. So as I talk to him I know that, in his mind, that's how he's processing our interaction. That in terms sets me on the defencive with the consequence that I am accused of...being guarded - as if that is only ever a  bad thing. Of course it's not; life is complex and interaction, as this proves, is not always without ulterior motives. Consequently one must have some form of defence mechanism, but even that is not safe from their attention.

I do not believe these people are acting in my best interests, obviously, but more than that I don't believe that can ever change. I think the advisers, being merely part of the system, cannot change their programming. It would be like asking a predator to stop eating meat. Now I have my appointment on Monday and I will have to, I'm assuming, explain myself. I have no doubt that my adviser, having presumably received wind of my complaint, will have said that I'm lazy and that I make excuses.

Therein lies the problem: that will be the default conclusion, because, as I've explained, that's systemically how the Work Programme operates. They claim to have even spoken to the Work Psychologist (which I'm not convinced about, but I have to assume it's true) so they know that there are issues there, yet they are ignored. They tell me that "you're on JSA, we can't help you", that my issues are simply ignored while they wear their 'JSA goggles'. They cannot operate under a paradigm that presumes the customer isn't lying, skiving, or that their problems aren't anything that can't be solved by them applying for jobs on my behalf. At best it subscribes to ridiculous arbeit macht frei notions that only benefit the money makers. 

Watch this video diary from a young graduate, having studied genetics I gather, posted by the Guardian. At the outset he sounds positive; he regards his first experience well. But from that moment on it turns around completely and he soon seems to lose hope. There is a follow up video where he talks about ending up with a diagnosis of, if not akin to, clinical depression! This is a scientist; a person that's studied. Why is he not out curing cancer? Nope, instead the profiteering bureaucracy hired by the government is only interested in 'short term goals'. It will be as much a success, in their eyes, as curing cancer if he ends up stacking shelves like the rest of the country's graduates in some pound shop.


  1. I feel my anxiety ramp up every time I have to interact with the WP. I used to think it was just my usual fear of 'those' type of situations, but now I realise it's because of what a failure it all is. That realisation - reinforced by my experiences - just makes me feel "I have to go through all this, for what?". It really is like entering a parallel world where all the facts and figures are different and where everyone walks around interacting with a different version of the world. Instead of going to the WP for help you find yourself trying to navigate through a weird, incompetent tangle that has nothing to do with employment and disregards a person's well-being.

    I return to the WP soon and I wonder if anything's changed since last June?

    1. I agree entirely.

      Dealing with the WP is to deal with threats and shadows. At no point was I given any kind of prospectus, not was I briefed on specifically what they can offer and how. The first thing they wanted me to do was answer a series of questions as part of some assessment process, including information they already knew. I had no idea what the point o fthis was nor were it was meant to lead. Only later did I realise it was little more than a straitjacket: you give an answer and that defines you without possibility of change or alteration. You are asked what you have done before and that is then deemed your life goal. Been a cleaner? Great, that's all we'll help you with.
      Meanwhile there is a constant background of threats and limits: you must do this, if you don't do that or the other there are consquences. It's like being a child in a particularly dark school environment.
      There's no support whatsoever. We all know what a supportive and nurturing environment feels likes, something ironically my Work Psychologist said I needed (fat chance of that happening). We all know how it makes us want to participate. But this is completely the opposite - and they wonder why people become reticent, guarded, or even clinically depressed!

  2. I believe wholeheartedly that the Work Programme is first and foremost a punitive measure, designed to catch out innocent and genuine claimants and force them off benefits. You spoke of the feelings of insecurity and dread you have every time you deal with these people, well that is precisely what they are aiming for - to destroy what little security people on welfare have left, and to make us all work harder for the paltry support we get. The main point of the WP then, is not to find people jobs, but to chivvy people off benefits by fair means or foul.

    I too feel that sense of dread every time I have to deal with the WP. Hell, even when I'm not at the WP I still feel dread - every time I get my post I dread seeing a brown envelope lying waiting for me, because I know even though I have turned up for every interview and appointment my provider can still attempt to sanction me for no reason at all (as happended last October). So that feeling of anxiety never goes away.

    This government is determined to apply "labour market principles" to welfare, and that means insecurity, arbitrary punishments and sanctions, and people being forced to do more for less. The WP is the embodiment of all that is wrong with the Government's approach to welfare, but people have been fed so much one-sided and inaccurate bullshit by the media they think the government is right to clamp down on "scroungers", and to hell with the consequences...

    1. In my experience there's a massive disconnect between the reality of the WP and what the government says about it. Not that this should be surprising, but the WP klept saying 'these are the rules, we have to follow the rules' and yet we are all led to believe it's an open system for people to get personalised help. Nothing could be further from the truth it seems.

  3. I think if you spent less time tweeting, blogging and writing on the Guardian website you would find a job in no time! You can't just hate society and feel it is beneath you because you are an outcast unwilling or unable to connect to it.

    1. How would spending less time doing something else lead to finding a job. You will have to explain the cause and effect there.

      And I don't hate society; I hate what capitalism, corporate culture, the media and the right wing have done to it.

  4. When I first had to close my Pub I was not worried as doing relief work was always available,I did not sign on and sofa surfed..when I did sign on at the JCP they were helpful and between us arranged to do a placement(I arranged)and gain my IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications,3 days before it started a major warehouse needed "Staff" not my ideal situation,but it was work and as it was available my placement was cancelled.

    Four months of being searched in and out of the warehouse, sent home due to lack of orders and generally being treated like shit=laid off.After 2 years on the dole,still sofa surfing and most of my time spent trying to keep some WP idiot happy.Ex-forces,up at 0530,worked 34 years on the trot and (YES) I do have a problem with some 22 yo Council worker (sub contractor for the WP)telling me I need a better work ethic.

    1. There's noone that thinks they don't have a good work ethic. It's just a tool for the bosses to tell everyone they aren't working hard enough for them.


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